The Misadventures of Sneaking into Tikal

Have you ever tried to sneak in anywhere? What happened?

A guy wearing a Burger King crown at my hostel and I were chatting when he mentioned to me that he was going to sneak into Tikal “the jungle way.” I had heard others speaking of sneaking into Tikal given its high price (150 Gonzales) and I was going to make an attempt to do this myself. Burger King guy asked if I knew how and suggested that I talk to Nelson about it.  
Nelson told me that if I took the local bus to Uaxatun, I had 2 options. I could A. Go to Uaxatun 1st and spend the night and after take a bus to go to a restaurant by the name of El Meson which is inside Tikal’s gates. The other option was to tell the bus driver as soon as we had passed through both security gates in Tikal, that I’d forgotten something in Tikal and wanted to get off the bus.

This plan probably would have worked- I’m not sure. I was stupid and had stayed up until 4AM the night before getting fingered by some British guy in a hostel bed (winning) so I was off to a late start. Nobody I asked seemed to know anything about the public bus. I even made a friend, Nomi, who spoke Spanish but it didn’t help.

We were pressed for time so we settled on a tourist shuttle which cost 60 Gonzales round trip. There was a tour guide on our shuttle who, long before we got to Tikal, requested 170 Gonzales from each of us to enter the park. The ticket price is 150, not 170, so we think the 20 was the price for the guide. I’m pretty sure some people paid that twice though- once when they booked the trip and once on the bus.

Nomi and I weren’t having it so we told our guide that we were meeting up with some friends and got off of the bus. There were 6 guards with guns by the gate. Behind the gate was a canopy tour with a jungle in the back. We thought that we could could potentially walk through the jungle to get to Tikal but we walked for about 20 minutes each way and the trail didn’t lead in the right direction.

Note: The canopy tour doesn’t go into Tikal- it’s just zip lines in a jungle. I’m sure it would be cool but you can’t see the ruins.

Another option was to wait for the public bus (if there was one) and say we wanted to go to Uaxactun, thereby bypassing the fee. Then we could change our minds and get out in Tikal. We asked around but everyone had a different idea of when the bus would pass by. Some people said that there was no bus.

We were forced to admit defeat. We were essentially stranded. There was about 1 car driving into Tikal every 30 minutes and the 1st gate is far (20 mins driving) from the entrance of Tikal. We were going to have to purchase a ticket.

Luckily, Crazy Mac had gotten me a ticket from the day before. Here’s how he did it: The group waited until 4pm so that they could purchase a 2 day ticket for the same price as the 1 day ticket. They did this because they wanted to see the full moon. So on April 20th Mac’s ticket was stamped with the date, April 21st because that’s when he had to leave. Mac said he didn’t have enough $ so the tour guide offered to pay the rest of his ticket fee. He used the $ given to him by the guards and told the ticket booth or someone that he didn’t have enough $ so they gave him the rest. He didn’t pay for his ticket at all. Then he met someone leaving the park whose ticket was for the 20th and took their ticket. The ticket dated April 20th was the one that he used to enter. You are allowed to enter and exit the park with your ticket as you please so there was no problem. The other ticket was not punched and he gave it to me to use on the 21st. And it worked! But my friend had to buy 1.

We hitchhiked with the next tour group we saw and they invited us on their tour for an extra $10 USD. We thankfully declined and excitedly entered the park.

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